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Metz (Municipality, Moselle, France)

Last modified: 2020-01-21 by ivan sache
Keywords: metz |
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Flag of Metz - Image by Olivier Touzeau, 27 April 2019

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Presentation of Metz

The municipality of Metz (117,890 inhabitants in 2016; 4,194 ha; municipal website) is located halfway (60 km) of Nancy and Luxembourg.

Metz, located on the confluence of rivers Moselle and Seille and on the junction of important roads, was already settled 3000 years BC. The town was the capital of the Mediatrici Celtic tribe, for which it was named Divodurum Mediomatricorum, subsequently shortened to Mettis, and, eventually, Metz. One of the most important Gallo-Roman towns, Divodurum was famous for its theater (25,000 seats), deemed the biggest of Gaul.

Theuderic I (487-534), son of Clovis, established in Metz the capital of the Frankish kingdom of Austrasia, which was involved in the fratricidal struggles between the Frankish kingdoms, especially with Neustria. The Pippinid lineage, of Austrasian origin, unified Francia in 719.
St. Arnulf of Metz (582-645) was appointed Bishop of Metz in 613 by King Chlothar II (584-629), who had united the Frankish kingdoms; after the king's death in 629, he retired in the abbey of Remiremont, probably upon order of the new king, Dagobert I (603-629), who also sacked Pippin of Landen, Mayor of the Palace.
Pippin and Arnulf, the respective roots of two prominent feudal dynasties, were good friends. Arnulf's second son, Ansegisel (610-662), married Begga (615-693), Pippin's daughter; Arnulf is therefore the male-line grandfather of Pippin of Herstal (635-714), great-grandfather of Charles Martel (688-741) and 3rd great-grandfather of Charlemagne (742/748-614). Accordingly, Metz is the cradle of the Carolingian dynasty.
Charlemagne maintained strong connections with Metz and elected the St. Arnulf abbey as his family necropolis. His wife, Hildegard of the Vinzgau (754-783), his son and successor Louis I the Pious (778-840), his illegitimate son Drogo (810-855), Bishop of Metz, and his sisters Chrothais and Adelais, who died young, were interred there.

Incorporated in 959 to the Holy German Empire after the share of Lotharingia, Metz remained under the sovereign rule of its powerful bishop. In 1234, the town's burghers rejected the bishop's rule and established an oligarchic republic ruled by a college of councilors appointed by the six "paraiges" (patrician lineages). Extremely wealthy, Metz was famous for its fairs, its coinage and its bankers, who lent huge amounts of cash to the highest dignitaries of the time.
The St. Stephen cathedral was built from 1220 to 1552, its building having been initiated by bishop Conrad of Scharfenberg. It is indeed composed of two building, the cathedral proper and the Notre-Dame-de-la-Ronde collegiate church, erected in 1186 and incorporated to the new sanctuary. The cathedral, designed in Gothic style, is famous for the golden yellow color of the stones extracted from the nearby quarries of Jaumont. Equipped with 6,500 m2 of stained-glass windows (13th to 20th centuries), the cathedral is known as God's Lantern. The treasure of the cathedral keeps Charlemagne's cloak and St. Arnulf's ring.

King of France Henry II (r. 1547-1559) led in 1552 the "German voyage" to assist the German Lutheran princes revolted against Emperor Charles V (r. 1519-1558). Led by Constable Anne de Montmorency (1493-1567), the Royal troops seized Metz, Toul and Verdun, Charles V besieged Metz, defended by Duke François de Guise (1519-1563), to no avail. The Three Bishoprics experienced an odd legal situation, being still under the legal rule of the emperor but in fact controlled by the French institutions, which progressively suppressed the liberties of the former Republic of Metz. The three towns were officially incorporated to the Kingdom of France only in 1648, as stated in the Treaties of Westphalia.

Located close to the border with the German Empire, Metz was transformed into a military stronghold. The citadel built in the 16th century was completed by fortifications designed in the 17th century by Vauban (1633-1707) and eventually built on the 18th century by Louis de Cormontaigne (1695-1762).
In the late 19th century, the development of the town was boosted by the industrial revolution; the town hosted an International Fair in 1861. Nicknamed the Eastern Fortress after having refused to surrender at the end of the Napoleonic rule, the citadel was besieged once again in 1870 by the Prussian army; François Achille Bazaine (1811-1888), commander-on-chief of the Rhine Army, surrendered on 28 October 1870. Nicknamed the Betrayer of Metz, he was accused of treason and sentenced to death, a punishment committed to twenty years' imprisonment. Incorporated to Germany from 1871 to 1918, Metz was defended by a garrison composed of 20,000 soldiers.

Ivan Sache, 3 May 2019

Flag of Metz

The flag of Metz, a banner of the town's arms, is vertically divided white and black.

The origin of the arms of Metz was elucidated by the historian Jean Schneider (1903-2004; Professor of Medieval History and Dean of the University of Nancy II) in Metz. Son blason à travers l’histoire (1951).
The arms were designed at the end of the 14th century, using the colors of the town's war banner ("baucent"), which was first mentioned in Dit de la guerre de Metz (c. 1324-1326). The oldest record of the town's arms is dated 20 August 1394, referring to coinage: the greater deniers feature "li corps Saint Estenne en genouil, entre deux escussons dou bassant de nostre citeit" (the figure of St. Stephen kneeing between two shield of our town's baucent). The arms appear to have been designed to highlight the town's political independence.
[J.C. Blanchard. 2012. Un bilan des travaux concernant l’héraldique médiévale messine (XIXe-XXIe s.)]

The meaning of the colors is "explained" in a song dated 1541:
Qui les couleurs voudra savoir
De nos armes ? C’est blanc et noir.
C’est que par blanc : Vitas bonis,
Et par noir : Mors est malis.

Who wants to know our arms' colors?
It is white and black.
For white: Life for good guys,
And for black: Death to evil guys.
[Tout Metz, 26 September 2008]

The greater arms of Metz are featured on a French postage stamp released on 5 March 1945 to celebrate the liberation of the town (2.40 F; YT 734); description) and sold until 15 September 1945 (more than 5 million copies).
Designed by Robert Louis and engraved by Henri Cortot, the arms are surmounted by a mural crown from which emerges a crown maiden holding a palm - traditionally meaning that the ton was never taken by force; the Cross of War is appended beneath the shield.

The Armorial Général assigns an odd coat of arms to "the Town of Metz, "Argent a pallet gules charged with a heart argent" (image). This is, beyond reasonable doubt yet another creation by d'Hozier's zelacious collaborators. Just above, "the Government of Metz in Messin Country" is assigned a similar coat of arms, "Argent a fess azure charged with a trefoil argent".

Olivier Touzeau & Ivan Sache, 31 May 2019

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